Black people suffering at the hands of white people happens so frequently that it’s hard not to become numb to it. Niecy Nash’s YouTube video is funny because it’s so true. But the deadly reality of white fear of black people, from Trayvon Martin to Ahmaud Arbery, is no laughing matter.
Recognizing how egregious it is when that racism is exhibited by police officers supposedly doing their job, I am still amazed by how shocked people are when another “death by police” incident happens involving a black person. George Floyd is only the most recent in a long, ugly line of such tragedies.
Here are some grim statistics that inform my reality as the head of a very diverse company with employees all over the map. These are the states where our current employees reside:
Congratulations, North Carolina. Your cops are only killing black people at a rate 76 percent higher than their population would suggest. (I’m really worried about my guy in Providence!) And while I don’t have state-by-state stats for this, according to mappingpoliceviolence.org, nationally unarmed black people are killed by police at five times the rate of unarmed whites.
It is typical, and perhaps convenient, for white people to frame the seeming epidemic of unarmed black people killed by the police as “a few bad apples” that need to be weeded out from the otherwise good cops that protect us from crime every day. And maybe that might make a difference if whites in political office, in prosecutors offices, in police administrations, on the courts, and in juries ever applied any significant consequences to the clearly bad apples, but that rarely happens.
What is more believable to me is that we have a societal problem, not a policing problem. As far as I know, there is no genetic mutation specific to cops that makes them more prone than the general population to devaluing and dehumanizing black people.
What those four cops in Minneapolis did (or allowed to happen) is what society has empowered them to do. And no matter how much white people shake their head and tweet their disgust, until they’re out in the streets calling for justice, until they’re voting out of office people who enable and even encourage this “us versus them” mentality, and until they start convincing each other that this has to end, those statistics are going to remain grim.